Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012. Nine-channel video projection (color, sound; 64:00 minutes). Gift of Graham and Ann Gund to Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Gund Gallery at Kenyon College. Photo by Elísabet Davids. Courtesty the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík. © Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson draws on a variety of cultural sources—from American musical traditions to the landscapes of his native Iceland—to create memorable works that challenge the boundaries between reality and fiction. His videos are often humorous, placing the performer against extreme conditions. Through repetition, Kjartansson’s videos create unexpected meanings, eliciting contradictory feelings of pleasure and anxiety, humor and sincerity, sentimentality and skepticism.
The Visitors is a major video installation filmed in 2012 at Rokeby Farm located in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley. The artist and a group of musicians occupy different rooms of the rambling and opulent estate, performing a sixty-four-minute arrangement composed by Kjartansson and Davíð Þór Jónsson. Displayed across nine screens, each video channel features musicians either by themselves or in groups playing instruments separately but simultaneously. Only in the installation of the work does the total musical composition form a whole. As the performers leave their individual rooms, the screens turn black until, at the end, the entire group is seen on a single screen walking away from the house through a field. The Visitors creates a uniquely layered portrait of the house and its musical inhabitants.
The Visitors was the first multiscreen video projection in the ICA/Boston’s growing collection of time-based media. The ICA has exhibited many multiscreen installations by artists such as Isaac Julien and Nathalie Djurberg and maintains a commitment to supporting this important contemporary medium. The ICA presented a traveling solo exhibition of Kjartansson’s work in 2012. The Visitors joins another video by Kjartansson, The Man, 2010, as well as major video installations by Steve McQueen and Mika Rottenberg.